Area residents who want to help in crisis situations will soon have the chance to become part of the Columbia County Community Emergency Response Team.
The program is designed to teach residents skills that can aid emergency crews should a disaster strikes the area, said Pam Tucker, the county's director of Emergency and Operations.
"It's just a really great way to enhance the responders and the number of responders in your community without having to hire a lot of extra firemen, law enforcement or EMS personnel," she said.
The course material will include an overview of the program, CERT team organization, disaster psychology and radio communications, fire safety, hazardous material awareness, emergency medical operations, and light search and rescue. On the last day of class, members will be given their CERT kits, face a disaster simulation and take a final exam.
"We have them go through a disaster simulation to give them an opportunity to demonstrate for the instructors all of the skills that they've learned," Tucker said.
Those enrolled in the program are required to participate in all eight classes before graduating in May at a Columbia County Commission Board meeting, she said.
The CERT classes, which can hold 25 people per group, starts Feb. 24, and applications are due by 5 p.m. Feb. 5. The registration process requires applicants to undergo a background check and complete an online course and exam created by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the national CERT program.
Registration also is open for another CERT class that will start Aug. 4.
The program began nationally after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and are funded by grants from the Department of Homeland Security.
"After disasters happen, people want to come help," Tucker said. "They always want to come help, but unless they're trained in these specific skills, they can hurt themselves and they can hurt other people."
The first CERT classes were offered to county residents in 2004 and have produced 278 certified members, said Tucker, adding that she doesn't see the program ending unless the grant funds are stopped.
The CERT classes are extremely popular among residents, and other county officials in Georgia have looked at Columbia County's program as a guideline for their own, she said.
The courses also tailor each certified CERT member to the task that they are best equipped to handle, Tucker said.
For information about the CERT program or for an application package, call the county's emergency and operations division at (706) 868-3303, or visit www.columbia countyga.gov.
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